Yesterday morning I put on my big sun hat and went up to St. John’s to watch the Greenpeace protest. It was with an equal blend of civic duty and curiosity. I brought a big jug of ice water and finished my morning coffee there as I marveled at the people’s pluck. All of this was going down — fittingly — in front of the Water Pollution Control Laboratory.
From where I sat on the bank it was impossible to really see the climbers, though variation in their set up was apparent. Some clearly had platforms, much to my relief (the scant coverage I had glanced at led one to believe they were just free-floating up there, dangling bodily in space).
Luke Strandquist, a Greenpeace activist interviewed by our local CBS affiliate (from his cell phone, whilst dangling from the bridge,) indicated everyone involved was an experienced climber. Some of them had hammocks, some had platforms and some were just on chairs.
I’m not entirely sure how their resupply-ing was accomplished — I know they themselves had supplies in their gear, but there was also talk on Twitter of their being resupplied in some mysterious capacity. Which is a good thing, because while you can compact calories to a certain extent, water is very heavy, and goes very quickly on a hot day like that.
From afar of course, they just looked like beautiful flags, flapping silently in the wind. Hues nicely contrasting with the pale green of the bridge, yet catching the light to offset the dark underside of the bridge, forest park, and the petroleum industry. Honestly during this quiet morning it felt not like a protest but like a Jean-Claude and Cristo installation, all silky fabric reacting to the wind. Mimicking the hypnotic movement of the water.
I was particularly interested in the network of safety cables (and, of course, the big boat-deterring cable). All support cables were attached to the underside of the bridge, so removal from the upper deck was impossible. (You couldn’t just “cut them down”, as many counter-protesters frothily demanded). I watched the climbers raise this cable many times to accommodate tugboats and barges, lowering it again once the boats passed under. All watercraft gave a toot of their horn — either in solidarity or merely indicating they wished to pass by. Of course by and large the dangling protesters were far too high up to interfere with most water traffic — there was only one boat they wanted to stop, and it was too tall to pass below.
I was there morning to late afternoon — arriving after the boat had been turned around the first time, and leaving just before the police really started to exert force to make way for the boat’s eventual departure. The bridge was still open, and traffic was relatively light on highway 30 opposite, and every so often a car or truck would blare its horn as it passed overhead. The people on shore would cheer and clap. The kayakers would whoop in salute.
Kayak numbers varied wildly while I was there. Visitor numbers varied wildly as well. It was a relatively quiet time down at the bridge. Every so often a chant would start from somewhere, and it would ring out weakly over the water, and then die out.
If anything it really brought home the drudgery that can be holding out. Waiting for the inevitable.
I was only there for five hours, and of course got to leave once I felt uncomfortable — when my water ran out and my shade disappeared. The protesters held out for just about forty hours, in direct sunlight, during the hottest day Portland has seen this year.
That’s in the shade, mind you.
It is, of course, futile to attempt to stop something so vast as a federally sanctioned multinational oil conglomerate with thirteen brave mountaineers, but I don’t think that was the point of this protest. Delaying the ship was, of course, intensely gratifying — and it was incredible to see the sort of ferocity that people express themselves out here. But the larger point was to get attention for the cause, and to once again call upon that most effective symbolism for environmental destruction — the human wall.
It was with a feeling of inevitability that, just in time for the prime time news block (so cynical!) Portland Police closed the St. John’s bridge to all traffic and successfully removed two protestors — lowering them like spiders into the waiting arms of the coastguard flotilla.
These two had dangled above the deepest part of the channel, and their removal cleared a tiny space for Fennica to squeeze under. It was at this point that the kayakers redoubled their efforts, launching into the river faster than the coastguard motorboats could arrest them. I know at least three personally who were in boats, out there in the fray, and countless others watching live from shore, or from the floating fishing docks out in the water.
The rest of Portland watched from home — both via live footage from our local television stations and via Twitter, in my case following both the #shellno hashtag and the unofficial PDX police scanner.
Fennica was escorted out to the Columbia river with what looked like 11 coast guard boats. One for each of the remaining Greenpeace activists.
Later, on Facebook, I saw something posted by Travis Wittwer, a scoutmaster with the 55th Cascadia Scout Group . It was getting passed around on Twitter, and is something I relate to very strongly:
Took my sons to St. Johns bridge to witness the #shellno protest. I wanted my sons to see of what people are capable.
On way there, I briefed them on the situation and the sides. They had emotional opinions, but are neither educated enough in this area, nor mature from years of experience to make a decision that is sustainable. I suggested that they go and witness and watch. They did not need to come to an opinion on the protest.
I wanted them to see the people. Think about how much planning and personal conviction is needed. And to be in awe of people.
While there, we would find a spot and sit and just watch and listen. Sometimes nothing seem to happen, and that is good–I want my sons to experience the pause and length of what the activists are doing. To hear it relayed or to see a photo is not the same as to be there, watching the banners wave in the wind, wondering what is going through the minds of the men and women hanging from the bridge, in the water, or lending support.
I wanted my sons to see a polite and peaceful protest that displays passion for an idea, a belief. This is something different than blasting a hole in the ship.
Spent the weekend out in the Mt. Hood National Forest.
I was long overdue for a weekend like this.
It’s both, really. Or at least, both use the name Oaks Bottom. (It’s also a Lompoc pub not far from here.)
I’m not sure how many of the amusement park patrons partake in the wildlife refuge — I know that when I come down here I’m usually much more interested in the nature scene than I am in carnival rides.
Prime tadpole habitat — both frog and salamander.
Pacific chorus frog, the color of spring.
So, the proximity seems strange, but you can’t argue with geography. The pond (which will be all dried up by high summer) is almost all that remains of what used to be a series of wetlands and seasonal ponds, fed by tributaries feeding into the main river. There are several signs along the Springwater Corridor that show sobering aerial photographs — first of the original flood plane, and then of the urbanization and cementing over a lot of that habitat. It’s not a story unique to Portland, but it’s rare that you are made aware of this so bluntly, standing on the very concrete slabs that choked Johnson’s Creek.
Nor can you argue with the oldest continually run amusement park in the country. This was one of those parks built by trolley companies — to lure city folks to use the lines on the weekends. So there’s a delightful old-timey feel to the place. It’s not big on rides (there are some, but none of the glossy vomit-o-matics you get with a larger establishment), but it has a dance hall — resevable for events but just a gorgeous building in its own right — as well as picnic pavilions and innumerable picnic tables dotting the walkway by the river. And you can’t argue with the view.
It also has a skating rink, gloriously kept, with the original pipe organ. Occasionally on Sundays an old man will play it intermittently for one of the afternoon sessions. (This is NOT TO BE MISSED. Check their calendar to find out when and go, if you are near enough.)
Summer’s gearing up and now when you go down to look for ospreys and bald eagles you can usually hear carnival sounds echoing through the valley. Sometimes you can even hear the heritage train, chugging along what used to be trolley tracks to bring happy patrons from OMSI on the eastern waterfront down to the amusement park just as they might have back in the 1920s. It’s a lively little area.
So in an impeccable act of anti-climax, our eagerly awaited expedition to Sauvie Island with the Oregon Mycological Society was cancelled at the last minute, owing to another expedition taking place the day before. In fact, when we called the Office of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to secure our REMOVAL OF VEGETATION permits, the woman on the phone kept asking if we meant “Saturday” instead of “Sunday”.
Alas, Sunday it was. There were rumors that the overall secrecy of the morel-picking spots have been betrayed, and promises were made that “new spots” would be found in the future.
As we had all requisite permits so we decided to go anyway and try and see what we could find — no easy feat when you have no frame of reference. A good part of the first few hours was spent tramping through undergrowth. Not nettles, as on Kelley Point, but blackberries. Which have thorns. Delightful.
We eventually gave up and drove to a few other sites, building theories on where the lucky morels might be hidden. And finally, maybe out of luck more than anything else, we did in fact strike gold.
We came away with two by the end of the day, and in comparing stories with other mushroomers it seems is a fairly typical morel score at Sauvie Island. Better luck up in the hills, which we’ll have to go attempt because now that we have tasted the meaty goodness that is a morel (a first for both of us) we are hooked. There is a reason people tramp through nettles and blackberries to look for these things, and it is because they are delicious.
During our third mushroom class we were given vague tips on spring mushrooms sites. I say “vague” because mushroom hunters are extremely reticent to disclose information that could lead to the pillaging of cherished hot spots, particularly those containing morels.
Kelley Point Park was among the places mentioned, so as I had some time on my hands yesterday I went out there to see what I could see.
To me, Kelley Point is interesting for its incredible geographic significance. It is at this point, beyond a riot of dandelions and daisies, that the Willamette River feeds into the Columbia River before heading out to sea. The very end of Portland’s river, right here at the viewpoint. (Where is the beginning? I will find out.)
Kelley Point is named in for Hall Jackson Kelley, a New England school teacher who had a something like an obsession for settling the western territories, and the Pacific Northwest in particular. Reading of Lewis and Clark’s journeys must have sparked something in him. Long before laying eyes on the place he wrote articles encouraging settlement along the Columbia river. He also attempted to secure funds for several expeditions, one of these an attempt to colonize the area around Puget Sound via “expedition by sea”. None of these attempts succeeded.
Finally, in 1833, Kelley set out with a smaller band than his intended group of several hundred, which two years earlier had attracted private investment and left without him. During this expedition, (funded presumably with his own money,) his company simply abandoned the project and stayed on in New Orleans, “at a great personal loss to himself.” From then on the venture looks as though it was a perilous, doom-laden thing — either due to Kelley’s fanatical, God-fearing Manifest Destiny imperialism, or by simple bad luck, it’s unclear to me as yet which.
In the end he was only in the area for about five months before being shipped off home by the fur traders who had claim to the area. The sign at the viewpoint is pretty direct about its feelings towards the man. It ends: “A bit deranged, Kelley visited briefly in 1834. He spent the rest of his life bitterly trying to win notice and payment for having sparked American interest in the Pacific Northwest.”
It seems an odd choice of patrons, but then maybe it just goes with Portland’s sort of scrappy reputation. Reading through his background was like reading a tome of tragic art.
Kelley endears me particularly for the exhaustive nature of his book titles, the last called tellingly, “A History of the Settlement of Oregon and of the Interior of Upper California, and of Persecutions and Afflictions of Forty Years’ Continuance endured by the Author.”
If Kelley had had his way, the city center would have been right here at the confluence of the rivers, where nowadays pilot boats dart about nervously and guide enormous ships into their various ports. Alas, it is about eleven miles southeast of here, and this place is merely a gem at the tip of the far Northern warehouse district. And apparently an excellent place to find mushrooms, if the furtive people walking around with buckets, baskets and brown grocery bags are any indication.
As usual, I was much more interested in the bird situation than the mushrooms, and after sitting and watching ships for a long time I managed to see a pair of red-breasted sap suckers, a white crowned sparrow (among a mess of chickadees, bushtits and song sparrows,) and an osprey eating a fish. The first osprey of the season, for me. Added to this were what appeared to be ominous walls of nettles spread beneath the gnarls of cottonwoods.
No, really. After you.
I found interesting specimens, but didn’t collect anything for spore prints, nor did I see any of the elusive morels. Though I did see an old verpa — in the family of false morels. So doubtless they’re out there.
Next Sunday there is an OMS sponsored field trip out to Sauvie Island to pick morels, so there was no need to go overboard here. Hopefully the nettles aren’t as bad out there as they are at Kelley Point.
Sketches from an outing a few weekends back. I’d never been to Bagby Hot Springs before, I hope to go back many times. The hike out alone is worth it.
I mentioned this on twitter not long ago, but the sunshine season is coming to Bridgetown (in a few months, anyway) and it’s time to get outside. I have been thinking a lot lately about how I can paint outside, something I’d like to do more often. Specifically I want to be able to carry my paints around with me at the Oregon Country Fair, and be able to be in full art-making mode rather than willfully limited as I was last year. The way I want to input things is always in flux and recently I’ve been itching to do more painting studies out in the world, and yearn for something that blends portability with simplicity. I want all the painting objects to be in one thing. Pallets, brushes, water cup, reading glasses and paper.
The pallets I use are plastic, and two of them are the fold up “travel” kind, though the large one doesn’t snap together like you’d want it to. Usually if my paints need to go somewhere I wrap a cloth around the cover-less pallet, close the close-able ones, tie them all together and stuff them into a bag. It works.
The brushes are of course the real problem. How in the world can one safely get brushes from point A to point B? For a long time I’ve had an ArtBin brand box that has foam holders specifically designed to keep brushes totally immobile — honestly the best solution I have seen. Those bamboo roll-’em-up mats really don’t work with small brushes and letting them jangle around loose in a pencil box is no solution at all. So the foam-in-the-box is great. However the box itself is not great. It is huge — intended for meaty acrylic and oil painting brushes, not the minute brushes we watercolor-type painters use. A lot of unusable space. Nothing apart from paintbrushes could go inside it yet the box itself is large than my largest pallet, and longer indeed than my normal bag could accommodate.
My big pallet actually has a space for brushes. In the past I’ve made a little tube out of paper, taped it shut, and slipped it over the bristles of the brush. That works fairly well except I can only carry about three brushes in this way and in order to actually work on something I need my full range. That’s still only about 5-8 brushes, but it exceeds my travel-pallet’s capacity.
For a long time my solution has been to not bring brushes out at all, partly for the impossibility and partly in an effort to simplify my art-making experience on outings. If I bring too many things I am apt to try and USE them and not pay attention to what I’m seeing. But I have seen some very amazing things, (the Museum of Man building in San Diego for instance,) that — for me — really cannot be captured in any other way than paint and brush. The last time I was visiting home I actually bought a paintbrush and a tube of paint somewhere because I couldn’t stop myself from wanting to express bigger than pen, more colorful than pen. And add to this my last-summer’s work-in-the-park sessions of just sketching when I had actual real painting to do. OR the countless days spent woefully indoors when I could have easily been outside working if only I’d had the means.
So it is that I’ve been in the market for a painter’s box. Nothing fancy, nothing pre-packed with gear I didn’t need. Just an old beat up thing I could trick out to suit my needs. And sure enough, whilst sifting through my favorite antique place for something else entirely, squashed between a fine ceramic bowl and a statue of St. Francis, was my dilapidated painter’s box. It was like destiny.
The ladies behind the counter looked at me with a trace of benevolent doubt as I gushed about my find, clutching it as though it were the a rare bone-china teacup. That saying about one man’s trash is another man’s treasure couldn’t be more true at antique stores. It’s okay. All the better if it was kind of battered — nothing to hold me back from really using it.
And the largest kick I get out of a thing like this is the resurrection of a thing left for dead. With a few modifications it would perfectly suit my needs.
A happy side-effect of this project was that it got me into Hippo Hardware for the very first time. It certainly won’t be the last time. If ever you need to spend an hour digging through a bin of luggage hardware, opening hinges, flexing latches, and solving the puzzle of what is this, and, how might it fit with another piece, and where is that other piece, I have the perfect place.
(This may not sound like flattery to you, but I can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon.)
And there you have it! A solution to the problem of the bag-full-of-crap. Now it’s a box filled more neatly with crap. Important crap. Time to go put it to the test.